Thursday, August 29, 2013

The next smallest step

Thank you all for the advice, you are amazing and generous with your experience and your wisdom.

I actually did make a few concrete steps today:
Figured out what Behavior Health coverage plan I have
Called Benefits Center after spending too much time searching our on-line benefits site and NOT FINDING any information on said coverage plan (phone numbers, working web site)
Signed in on-line so I could search providers
Screened many potential therapists, googling each one to see if they had pictures, websites, or listings in psychology_today.
Emailed one "nice looking" and close by provider asking her exactly what I asked you guys.
Got her response: essentially, its reasonable to come on your own and we can decide whether couples therapy is right for you. Call me to discuss.

Let's see when/if I actually call her.

She has a website with a "method" for couples counseling that she uses, only I know nothing about these methods and not sure it would be a good fit. Anyone know anything about "EFT" (emotionally focused therapy)?

In other news, the boys' daycare is closed tomorrow and I decided that I'd take the day off (no, this is not the martyr game, it actually gets me out of several extremely unpleasant work obligations, whoo!)  I actually had grand plans for spending the day out and about exploring the city and soaking up the last of summer. But B came home acting weird...102.8 fever. And now I am starting to feel a bit achy and woozy. L had it Monday & Tuesday and G  just got over it (some kind of 48-hour fever/tired thing).

It may be a play at home and let kids watch movies kind of day. They won't care.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

You should really see someone for that...

Or where I ask the internet for advice that I might actually follow (this time).

I noticed today that I have recently written several comments urging bloggy-friends to seek professional help, or to congratulate them for seeking same help. Yet...

I have pointedly ignored several comments on my own blog from bloggy-friends suggesting that I myself seek professional help.

I know several bloggers that have eloquently and generously shared their own therapy experiences, which I found immensely helpful in understanding what to expect in both individual and marital counseling.  And I am certain it would help. But I can't seem to take the first step.

Why? Good old-fashioned laziness. And the tried-and-true, "oh I don't want to be a bother"-itis, wherein I don't want to take time or money for myself when certainly I could just PULL IT TOGETHER FOR THE LOVE ANA, there is nothing really WRONG, is there???

And then I'll  feel that sinking feeling I get walking home from work on Friday night, imaging an entire weekend full of opportunities for potentially yelling at my kids, or picking a fight with my husband, or hiding in the closet for a freaking moment of peace. Or I'll be sobbing in the bathroom, shaking with rage and disappointment after yet another pointless circular fight with G.

I think I need to talk to someone. But here is the question:

Any opinions on whether I should see someone for myself, or whether (since a lot of my issues are indeed related to communication issues with G) should we see someone together?

Pros for going myself: I don't need to involve G or "convince" him to go, its covered by insurance, I can only change myself so maybe I should focus on that. Maybe I can't work on the marriage until I've worked on myself?

Pros of going together: Finally, FINALLY (hopefully) an outside person that can help us break out of 10-year-old unproductive patterns of communication and fighting. To finally be able to know what he's thinking instead of constantly guessing and assuming and often getting it wrong. G is remarkably resistant to anything I tell him second hand, and immediately responsive to first-hand recommendations from "authority figures" or third parties.

What do you guys think?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Superficial Musings

"A Wrinkle in Time" could make a great movie.

Also, need to re-read all of Madeline L'Engle. For the fourth time. I also notice there are newer books I never found at my childhood library.

"Nude" colored stuff, like underwear, lipstick, and bandages, are made exclusively for white people.

Is it rude for me, as a non-white person, to say "white people"?

There should be an app for books that uses a Netflix-style algorithm to suggest books to you.

I've recently found that having a drink before 4pm means the rest of the day is going to be painful. Bye bye brunch mimosa and bloody mary.

If the children are fighting over something, and you buy a second to prevent the fighting, the second better be EXACTLY the same or the fighting will intensify (no buying the red one because the yellow one was inexplicably $2 more).

Maxi dresses just do not work for me. Oh well, I've got nice legs.

Also, I don't get the harem pants trend. Didn't do it 20 years ago, not gonna start now.

Wonder if "natural" deodorant really works or do you end up smelling "natural" as well.

What are you wondering about today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Random assorted...

The weekend was mostly good. There were several changes in plans.
  • I did end up going to the book club because G pointed out the true reason I wasn't going (that I didn't realize until he mentioned it) which was me being stressed about him being stressed alone with the kids. He felt like an ass and insisted I go, and I did, and I enjoyed the break and the socialization.
  • G ended up coming along on the outing Sunday (my friend still met us there) and it was really fun for the kids and not bad for the old folks, either.  The weather was perfect for being outside, and I'm glad we took advantage. Plus this park is done for the year so this was our absolute last chance.
  • Sunday evening the tables were turned and I was the one that literally lost my head over B's tantrum/hitting/whining. (It started with B upending the bus toy that L was sitting on so that he fell backwards and hit his head on the concrete). It was not pretty. And ended up with me drinking a wee bit too much, ordering take-out and eating/spending a wee bit too much, and staying up a wee bit too late and now being completely done with Orange is the New Black and searching desperately for a new distraction. 
  • I woke up Monday with the faint smell of failure on me. I felt guilty for losing my cool with B (in my defense, I tried all the tricks I had up my sleeve and nothing worked. Nothing.) and for using what could be called "unhealthy coping mechanisms".  But, I shook it off and went on with my day. I am a work in progress.
I took the morning off to get B to a 10:30AM dentist appointment. B is a natural at the dentist; he loves playing in the waiting room, asks politely for the chocolate flavored paste, answers all the dentist's questions and opens his mouth wide while watching a show on the TV they have over the chair.  I'm dreading taking L, and purposefully didn't sign him up for dental insurance this academic year. He screams bloody murder for hair cuts and forget about the doctor, they had to get an extra person (in addition to me and the doc)  to hold all 20 lbs of him down to get his ears checked last time. On the other hand, B chats pleasantly with the hair dresser (and has been since his first haircut at 1.5 years) and offers his arm out for shots.

I am proud of how self-possessed B has become around adults. He was talking and joking with the dentist like it was nothing. He's still super awkward around kids his age, however. Last week, B asked G "Daddy are you my best friend?". G replied in the socially appropriate "I'm not your friend, I'm your father". Then B went on to (quite pitifully) explain how all his little friends had paired up into bestfriendships and he was left out and G felt like an ass.

On the way to the dentist I mentioned something happened to me "a long time ago, maybe when I was 20?" B asked when I would "get 20 again" and I had to tell him, "never. I'll never get 20 again". Then I explained how when his birthday came around, and he turned 4, he would never ever be 3 again..."so make sure you enjoy it". He didn't get the poignancy.

The timing of the dentist appointment gave us a lot of extra time. G & L left the house at 8:30, so B & I took his scooter out around the 'hood, then came home and chilled (he listened to music and I did email). We dawdled to the dentist and were done in 20 minutes. Then we had over an hour to spend before he could go to school---the kids go out to the park from 11-12 and his teacher told us earlier that unless he could make it before 11, he'd have to wait until 12. So I took him to the park and played for about an hour. It was relaxing.

I think I'd really enjoy having a day off each week, if I only had one kid to watch that day. No, who am I kidding, if I only had B to watch. But it would have to be a proper day off, not "working from home" while also performing childcare, which, I seriously don't get how people do this. I know they do it, I've read it on blogs (so it must be true!), but it must be inordinately inefficient and stressful, and half-assed unless your kids are champion nappers, or you stay up all night working.  Also, B was wonderfully behaved today, otherwise I wouldn't be saying this.

Hope your weeks are starting off great.

Friday, August 16, 2013

If you don't like it, change it

I went into last weekend trying to change my mindset, to notice the good things and not dwell on the bad. This weekend I'm adding on my other tactic to dealing with the not-so-wonderful in life. Not just changing my reactions, but changing my actions.

I was going to go to my bookclub meeting. Sometimes these are fun, sometimes they are boring or worse, draining. They occur at an inconvenient time (2pm) and involve schlepping somewhere (usually 30 minute commute) for an hour or so of conversation, which, depending on the attendees ranges from amazing to...yawn-fest. The list of attendees geared more yawn-fest, so I changed my rsvp to no. Instead I'll go get my eyebrows done, maybe a pedicure too? (since I'd already planned that time away from home).

I was going to go to a local event with G and the kids. When I mentioned it to G, he seemed less than enthused. So I'm taking a friend instead, for company and to help with the kids. I'm really excited about this. And he gets some time alone, which will hopefully help his attitude (after last weekends "talk" he was feeling better for a bit but seems to have re-entered the slump after several admittedly terrible set-backs this week).

While cooking last weekend was kind of fun, it was also tiring, and the resulting fight re: clean-up was definitely on the do-not-repeat list. So...we are simplifying meals. We've got leftover pizza, hot dogs, etc.. for the boys and G & I will have pasta if we don't feel up to the kiddie menu fare.

So to summarize: say no to commitments that don't make me 100% happy, hang out with friends, and simplify.

I'll update on Monday.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The good, the bad, the ugly...the long version

After Friday's affirmations on "being present" and "living in the moment", I set out to truly enjoy the weekend ahead. The results? As expected, they were mixed.

The Good
I was patient and attentive with the kids. We did a lot of stuff around the house and in the 'hood. Baked cookies, made waffles, scootered and rode bikes, several park trips, lots of books  read and stories told. I cooked a fair bit---in addition to the cookies & waffles, I made bean & cheese soft tacos for Saturday lunch, home-made pizza for Saturday dinner, and Sunday did a lot of our weekly cooking. We didn't have any big outings because G took on a home-improvement project that left me on the own with the boys for the majority---and as I've mentioned before, I can't really handle both boys on my own in the world (even with both of us around, L ran into traffic, shoved his hand in another kid's nose, licked the sidewalk a few times, and put a piece of broken glass in his mouth---and that was just Sunday morning).

It was truly a matter of attitude---instead of viewing all the cooking, grocery shopping, and basic kid-wrangling as horrendous chores to check off the list, I viewed them as integral and valuable aspects of family life. Instead of counting down the hours until bedtime, I savored the time to be with my kids and really notice them---what skills have they picked up, what things delight them naturally, and how can I guide them to grow and learn? Yeah yeah, cheesy, but I'm only on the "good" so bear with me.

The Bad
On Saturday both boys seemed to have lost their freaking minds (and consequently, contributed greatly towards us losing ours). L barely napped and was clingy and whiny the whole rest of the afternoon (because he was TIRED, duh!). B had frequent meltdowns, with inconsolable crying and screaming over...who knows.

G is not good with dealing with B's meltdowns. His response generally consists of "STOP CRYING RIGHT NOW! There is no reason to cry! Stop it!" and maybe some lectures. Which, yeah...accurate, but not exactly creative parenting. After about 30 seconds, G enters his own meltdown usually and I am required to placate both of them. B's first episode was on the way home from the park, where I popped into the store with L to grab a couple of things while B & G waited outside with the dog near a little fountain across the street. Apparently B really wanted to come with me, and escaped from G into the street to get to the store. In fear (and anger), G jerked him back and...the screaming lasted until I got back, when it turned into robotic broken-record whining "I wanna go to the stooooore" repeated for 10 more minutes.

Two more such episodes occurred, the last at bedtime. The boys bathed happily together and then I took L for stories. G had actually asked me to let him take L because he wasn't up to dealing with B, but I was also tired and have done B's (long and boring library books) bedtime stories EVERY DAY this week so I kind of wanted a break, and didn't know it would get this bad. B freaked out, screaming, saying he wanted mommy, and after distraction or reasoning didn't work, G forcefully brushed his teeth.

And that leads us to...

The Ugly

B emerged from the bathroom in tears, but calmed down quickly and we finished stories. When I tucked him in, he told me "I was sad because daddy squeezed my hands hard. I didn't like it. Can you tell him not to do it?". Ugh. I honestly didn't want to deal with G so I went upstairs to shower but heard B rattling the door (he can't open the door yet, thank the universe!)---B went in and came out exasperated---"He only wants YOU". I went in and he asked "did you tell daddy yet?". I told him no, but how about YOU tell him? So I called G up and B told him how he didn't like his hands being held tightly or being pulled. Apologies, hugs, bedtime.

Then G and I had a talk. The gist of us was that G doesn't know what to do when B freaks out. He also gets overwhelmed spending ALL DAY with the boys on weekends without outings or plans. His favorite part of the day was working outside on the fence alone.

So I gave him some tips for dealing with meltdowns. Tell stories, break out the i-phone and turn on music or videos, distract him with a task (jump over this plant, find a blue car), or counting (doesn't work when he's REALLY freaking out, but its a tool). Or just let him cry and work it out himself if nothing helps. And I told him he could have more time Sunday to work on the fence or whatever he needed. And then he says "ugh. work work work. Work on the fence, work in the house. And then you had to go and make pizza instead of just ordering it, and I have to clean up the huge mess in the kitchen". And this is where I LOST MY SHIT ya'll.

What does he expect? This is life! We are grown-ups and he chose to get married, buy a house, and have kids. He KNOWS we are trying to save money so we need to do more ourselves.  I also thought the kids would like to help make pizza so it'd be an activity! (They ended up not helping at all because G was showing them Sesame Street videos on the laptop at the time and I can't compete with screen time). He wanted to work on the fence, told me he enjoyed it, and then complains about it?

I told him he needed to completely change his attitude. I was working really hard on that myself, and it is helping. And if he needs something to change, he needs to think about and be able to articulate what he needs so that we can discuss it and make it happen. Or if he's that miserable, leave. He can't just be miserable and not work on either a) modifying his thought processes or b) making concrete changes to be happier all the while c) ruining MY happiness.

More was said and discussed and I cried a lot, but eventually he admitted that he isn't always miserable, today was just overwhelming. He liked the tips for dealing with B. He agreed that his attitude has been awful and he is going to work on it.

More Good
Sunday was much more uniformly good. G was hemming and hawing about working out in the morning and I basically kicked his ass out the door, which he thanked me for later. He told me in the afternoon that he had a better attitude and everything seemed better overall. Sunday evening, G was starving so I let him have dinner while I got L to bed. L is so sweet with his tiny little voice and his own little language that it brought tears to my eyes. I then went downstairs and the tears came again as I saw G cooking these (we were going with an "Indian Food" theme this week) with B beside him on the stool, rolling out dough like an expert. "Where on earth did he learn that?" I asked. "No idea, what an awesome kid, huh?" G replied.

We're going to be OK. It just takes some work. Like everything else in life worth doing.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Never before and never since, I promise

I've been thinking about this for a while. Months, years maybe...yet I seem to forget and fall into old patterns of thinking. The old "things will be better when..." Of viewing life as something to "get through" until xyz happens and then my real life will begin---the one that's easy, and carefree, and amazing. 

Lately, I feel that everything is to be "gotten through"---get through the morning to get to work, get through work to get home, get through the evening routine to get to bed, and even get through the weekend. I view my evenings of dog-walking, lunch-making, kid-wrangling as my "second shift" but I could also choose to view it as "family time". The activities are the same, but the attitude is different.

I'm OK at noticing the unequivocally good moments, but I want to be better at noticing all of it...because there may be good moments hidden in the tedious ones. Or maybe it is truly tedious, but there are lessons to be had with that, too. I want to stop escaping my life by picking up my phone and losing myself in someone else's story instead of diving into my own.

 I read today about 2 mothers in their 30s diagnosed with cancer. Also about a little boy, age 2. Nothing is guaranteed. Waiting for "things will bet better when..." results in me missing an awful lot of todays and for what?

I love this quote I found somewhere. I've got it posted on my desktop at work to look at whenever I'm feeling whiny about my life:

“With sour faces we let a thousand bright and pleasant hours slip by unenjoyed and afterwards vainly sigh for their return when times are trying and depressing….we should cherish every present moment that is bearable, even the most ordinary, which with such indifference we now let slip by, and even with impatience push on.” —Schopenhauer

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The more things change...

I was reading over my old posts this evening and was struck by how quickly things change and then change again, and sometimes even end up right back where they started.

Do you remember how upset I was about B's complete preference for Daddy (and rejection of Mommy) from about 2-3 years of age? Well the tables have turned. Now its Mommy-Mommy-Mommy go away Daddy, I don't want you. And you know what? This sucks, too! Not because I mind the attention (though sometimes the "attention" consists of him wanting to take his aggression out on ME, by hitting/yelling/tantrums), but that I feel bad for G. More so, because I know how much it hurts. He told me recently that he finally truly understands how I felt back then; at the time, he was overwhelmed and thinking I was the lucky one!

I know its innocent on his part; he feels a preference and expresses it, without regard for how the other is going to feel. He's not trying to make one of feel rejected, we are projecting that onto him. From my reading around the 'net last year, I also know its extremely common. I remember my sister being attached to my dad for a couple of years, but then many many years of both of us shunning dad to be with mom. What I think turned B around was simply my making a subtle but conscious effort to spend more time with him one on one. G started taking L for his bath, so B & I would hang out until it was his turn. Then I'd bathe him and do his stories more nights than not. I would take him to appointments. When L napped, G would go run errands, so B & I would hang out and read books, etc... Oh and also my stories. I tell him stories, tons of them, every day. He is obsessed with these stories I make up. That's a whole separate post!

Reading between the lines, I noticed my energy levels changing (for better or worse), B's "three-ness" and behavior, the state of my marriage, my attitude towards...everything. I noticed repeating patterns of ups and downs, elation & depression, always coming to rest in the happy, boring middle.

One thing that hasn't changed? L's sleep. Still crap. (and worse this week because he was sick and pitiful so we took appropriate pity and co-slept for a couple of days and NOW, he's copped on, and while he has fully recovered, we will likely never get a full nights sleep again ever ever EVER)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Light and Dark

I came of age in the 90s. Sarcastic, dry humor and a general sense of negativity about the world came standard with the flannel and limp hair. While I've certainly grown out of my grunge phase, a streak of darkness remains. I'd say I'm equal parts light and dark these days, and I think my blog reflects that---looking over my posts a see a decent balance of heavy, vent-y posts with lighter,  grateful ones.

Most of the blogs I read regularly are similar, because I like reading real, and real is mixed and messy. I do, however, occasionally foray into sunshine-and-roses-land, full of precious photos and the unbridled joy of a perfect life. You know the type; recipes and crafts are often involved. Advice on being perfect may be given. I recently came to realize that some people hate on these blogs, enraged by the perfection, demanding reality and smugly gloating when some less-than-perfect detail of the blogger's life comes to public attention. I don't get this...I read these type of blogs knowing full well that I'm not reading about a person. I'm reading about a brand; a carefully cultivated image that is projecting a slice of life, but by no means the whole pie. I think its the blogger's right to write whatever she (come on, its always a she) wants to write about, as long as she isn't deliberately deceiving anyone out of money or energy (i.e. faking her child having cancer so that people will set up fund-raisers, etc...).

I like occasionally reading the light. Its fun, it encourages me to notice the good things, teaches me to be grateful (which does not come naturally to me, a complainer at heart), and sometimes the recipes are really really good. There is also the so-called "aspirational" angle...if she could sand and paint all her kitchen cabinets and replace them by herself while her four kids were home all day, I can do it too!

Then there's the other side---the seedy underbelly of life can be s&*t and I'm going to complain about it on the internet in hilarious and inappropriate ways. These can be fun, too, because...hilarious! And also validating in either an "OMG Me too, I'm not a freak!" way or a more Schadenfreude-type "OMG At least I'm not dealing with THAT!" way. Again, I've noticed that these bloggers have haters, tending towards the "you are a terrible mother" "your children will read this and hate you" type, all for such sins as declaring that 3-year-olds can be freaking annoying or that changing poopy diapers totally blows. Again, appreciating these blogs requires a little reading between the lines. CLEARLY she loves her children more than life, she's just blowing off steam (and maybe generating a modest side income) writing about their shenanigans. Mentioning the sunshine-and-roses part would ruin the vibe.  I don't buy the whole idea the complaining about motherhood is novel or stereotype-busting...not in 2013 anyways. Maybe 10 years ago it was "fresh" to talk about how hard it all can be, but these days comments (that I just saw on a "motherhood is hard"-type post yesterday) "you're so brave for putting it out there! I've never heard anyone talk about this before" are just...puzzling.

My favorites, as I mentioned, are the mix. I particularly love a surprise sappy post from a generally misanthropic grump (and I do love misanthropic grumps) or a lets-get-real heart-pouring from a typically upbeat gal. Those seeming contradictions drive home the truth that we all contain multitudes, and we all likely have a story to tell. And do I ever love to read stories.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

These days...

  • B is developing a real sense of humor. Nothing delights me more than seeing his eyes shine as mouth try not to grin as he gleefully relates his made-up jokes. 
  • The weather is sheer perfection. 77 degrees, blue skies, light breeze. G & I took a half-day yesterday to enjoy it. Because we have been around enough to know it won't last (rain begins tonight).
  • L is still obsessed with belly buttons. BUTTEEEE he screeches as he pulls up my shirt to reveal said buttee and burrows his face in my belly. Weird kid. 
  • I am exercising again. Everything always feels a bit more in control when I'm working out regularly. Even if its just an illusion of control, I'll take it. 
  • L and Doggy are developing a real friendship. He hugs her good morning & good night every day and burrows his face into her middle (sense a pattern? he's a snuggler). If only he'd learn not to pull her tail, they'd get along perfectly.
  • I've noticed sparks of interest in cooking new (non-utalitarian) foods again. We ate some delicious Maylasian food recently and I'm dreaming and researching the re-creation of the meal.
  • B continues to love being sous-chef in the kitchen. Even if he has no interest in eating the end product (seasoned baked tofu squares was the latest), he is over-the-moon excited at being asked to stir, shake spices, arrange pieces, spoon things from one bowl to the next. Will he be cooking us dinner in 5 years, or will it fade away with the typically toddler "helpfulness" phase?
  • I am simultaneously exhausted, exhilarated, frustrated, full, lonely, focused connected, scattered, peaceful, overwhelmed, and a million other emotions. 
  • I think this is life. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

What the dress needed...

Recently I blogged about that dress that doesn't quite fit. In this post the "dress" was obviously a metaphor for "life", but in reality there really is such a dress in my closet.

So perfect in color and style, it even fits, yet in the 6 months I had owned that dress, I'd only worn it once. I'd tried it on many a morning, only to take it off before I headed downstairs, because something felt wrong. I tried the belt, the cardigan, tights, boots, flats, just didn't feel comfortable to me and looked strange in the mirror. Until this week, when I wore it over my new shaping shorts (i.e. a much less constricting, much cheaper version of spanx). The dress finally felt, and looked, the way I imagined it in my mind's eye. And despite the tighter undergarments, it was extremely comfortable to wear on a muggy and chaotic day from dawn to dusk.

All the dress needed was a little support.

And here's where I turn the analogy around and acknowledge that support is exactly what's been missing from my life recently, and what I think I need in order for things to feel comfortable.

I've written before about the lack of community in our daily lives, and about my desire for closer friendships. Its a feeling that comes and goes---and times of stress are when I feel the lack the most. This is clearly one of those times, where I need someone other than G that I can confide in---for comfort, suggestions, or simple solidarity. Someone who is outside enough to give a fresh perspective, but knows me well enough not to dole out assvice.

I don't have anyone like that in my life right now, and I'm not sure how to make it happen. I used to have extremely close girlfriends, but have lost touch with most,  due to the immense distances (geographic or lifestyle) between us. G & I have some couple friends we get together with, but that's not really the venue to discuss such personal topics as marriage counseling, in-law relationships, or body issues. I have colleagues I can vent to about work, but...same. My sister and I text frequently about kid stuff, but I consider some topics taboo with family. And the few friends I've managed to make all seem to be in very very different life situations right now (one newly engaged, one married 25 years with older kids)...they are sympathetic, but don't get it, because they are not currently living it.

This may be one of the main reasons I get it. But you don't (as far as I know!) live down the street, so I can't have you over for a nice glass of wine and a chat.

Unsurprisingly, I've read other bloggers that mention this same problem. Its hard to make friends when you're older, and throw in the time and energy constraints of working & parenting, and its easy to want to avoid the whole thing. I have to remind myself that this is important to my mental health and I need to do something about it (but what! seriously, suggestions welcome!). Because everything fits better with a little support.